The Supreme Court of Kansas has disbarred an attorney for his conduct as defense counsel in a capital murder case. In the Matter of Hawver, a Kansas attorney represented a criminal defendant accused of murder, despite having no prior experience trying capital murder cases. He also did not associate with competent co-counsel, or obtain additional training or education to become competent.
The New York Appellate Division has affirmed a judgment dismissing a legal malpractice claim against a New York attorney and his law firm. In Mizuno v. Nunberg, a client hired an attorney to represent him in bankruptcy proceedings, after a bank foreclosed on the client’s property. The client was unable to stop the foreclosure, and then filed a legal malpractice action against the attorney. He was successful in that action and recovered the value he lost as a result of the foreclosure sale.
California’s Fourth District Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a legal malpractice action on the basis that it was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. In Torres v. Blankenship, a client hired an attorney to represent her in various legal proceedings over a two year period. Unbeknownst to the client, the attorney had been under investigation by the State Bar of California, and was suspended from practicing law for the final two months of his representation. The attorney subsequently informed the client of his suspension and she terminated his services.
Insight: The short answer is yes. As a party to a lawsuit, you are responsible for paying the costs of litigation. These expenses include court filing fees, medical record copying costs, deposition transcript fees, and expert witness fees.
As your attorney suggested, these costs are typically advanced by lawyer. Upon successful resolution of the case, he will then deduct this amount along with his fee, and pay the balance to you.
The Supreme Court of Nebraska has suspended an attorney for an indefinite term after finding that she disclosed confidential information about a client. In re Donna J. Tonderum, a Nebraska attorney informed a prosecutor that she believed one of her former clients was guilty of a crime.
The Supreme Court of Louisiana has disbarred an attorney after finding that he failed to refund unearned attorney’s fees to 26 clients. In re Charles Tanner Phillips, II, a Louisiana attorney accepted and kept attorney’s fees from multiple clients, but did not perform any substantive legal work in return.
Insight: If you believe that your wife is having an affair with her lawyer you may report him to your state’s attorney disciplinary committee. Most states have adopted some form of American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1.7 (a) (2), which states that a lawyer should not represent a client if there is a risk that the lawyer will be materially limited by his own interests. This would include a personal relationship with a client and may be grounds to force withdrawal of the attorney’s representation.
Since your divorce is not final until the divorce decree is signed by the judge, any form of adultery, may be used to your legal advantage, as long as you live in a state that recognizes fault in divorce proceedings. If you are able to prove that your wife is having an affair with her attorney during the divorce proceedings, you will have a better chance of obtaining custody of your children and may be entitled to a larger portion of the marital assets.
The Supreme Court of Wisconsin has suspended an attorney after finding that he engaged in unethical conduct. In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Kratz, a Wisconsin district attorney met with the victim of domestic abuse to discuss the case, which he was prosecuting against her ex-boyfriend. After the meeting, the attorney and the victim exchanged personal cell phone numbers. Over the following three days, the attorney sent the woman 30 text messages, some of which contained sexually explicit language that the woman felt was offensive.
Insight: Unless it would have some impact on your case, your attorney is not obligated to notify you of his pending disciplinary proceedings. You are always entitled to terminate your attorney’s services and hire another lawyer. However, if you choose to do so, you likely will not be reimbursed for services already performed.
If your attorney is ultimately suspended or disbarred, he would have to notify you that he can no longer represent you, and you might arguably be entitled to reimbursement of your retainer, since he cannot complete his representation.
Insight: Most states have adopted some form of Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.4, which requires attorneys to keep clients reasonably informed about the status of their legal matter and make timely responses to client’s requests for information. The rule also obligates attorneys to provide sufficient information to clients, so that they may make informed decisions.
If you have made repeated attempts to contact your attorney, and have not received a response, you may wish to contact the division of your state’s bar that handles attorney disciplinary actions. The bar may assist you in eliciting a response from your attorney, and may begin disciplinary proceedings if the attorney’s conduct was egregious.
In some circumstances, an attorney’s failure to communicate with a client would also constitute legal malpractice. Failure to disclose material information to a client may also give rise to additional liability under your state’s consumer protection statute. If you believe your attorney’s inadequate communication has adversely affected the outcome of your legal matter, you should consult a legal malpractice attorney.